GREAT FALLS — The 2021 State A girls basketball tournament moved into the semifinal round on Thursday, with the Havre girls crushing Columbia Falls to return to the state championship game for the third time in the last four years.
In the second semifinal, Billings Central broke away from Hardin late in the second quarter, then controlled the second half to head back to the title game. The Rams were co-champions with Hardin last year after COVID-19 prevented the title game from being played.
Havre 59, Columbia Falls 38
The Four Seasons Arena has proven to be Havre's home away from home, as the Blue Pony girls advanced to another State A championship game after beating Columbia Falls 59-38 in the semifinal.
The win puts Havre in the title game for the third time in the last four seasons. The previous two appearances, which Havre won, also took place at the Four Seasons Arena. The Blue Ponies also won state in 2014 in the building.
"It just takes a lot of heart and a lot of practice and a lot of dedication," said Havre senior guard Kylie Walker.
Havre took control almost from the outset, draining five 3-pointers in the first half to head into the break with a 34-21 lead. The Ponies held Columbia Falls to just three points in the third quarter.
“We worked on boxing out a lot, we worked on having a lot of defensive fundamentals, and a lot of passing it around," Walker said. "I think we did pretty good. It was a pretty good defensive night for us."
Walker and Yelena Miller each had 11 points for Havre, while Loy Waid followed with 10. Lakia Hill, the only Wildkat in double figures, had a game-high 13 points.
Havre will face Billings Central in the championship on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Columbia Falls will play Whitefish in loser-out action at 1 p.m. Friday.
Billings Central 50, Hardin 37
A year after being unable to play in the state title, Billings Central won the co-champ rematch with a 50-37 win over Hardin in the semifinals of the State A tournament.
"There’s a lot of history between us, that’s for sure," said Central junior guard Mya Hansen. "It’s a battle anytime you step on the court, so it’s a really fun game to play in. These are the games I live for, really, to come out and compete.”
Behind a raucous crowd, the first half was tightly contested, featuring nine lead changes. Central took control with a run in the final minutes of the second quarter, leading 28-19 at the break. By the fourth quarter, Central had extended the lead to 14, before milking the clock to seal the victory.
"That's what's great about our team, we got out there and we play for each other," Hansen said of the Rams' defense. "That's why I love playing on this team. We go out and we play for each other, so that means each person is going to do their own individual role and that will help us all as a team."
Hansen scored 17 points, including 10 in the second half. Maria Stewart had 13 points for the Rams, who will face Havre in the title game at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Kylee Old Elk and Alaina Woods each had 10 points for the Bulldogs, who will play Hamilton Friday in a 3:30 p.m. loser-out game.
Hamilton 47, Glendive 34 (loser-out)
Whitefish 56, Ronan 49 (loser-out)